1. Child Labor in Honduras
Statistics on the number of working children vary widely in Honduras. In 1999, the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicated that 17.3 percent (820,834) of children between the ages of 10 and 14 were working.859 In 1998, the ILO’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) estimated that some 240,000 children between the ages of 11 and 17 were working.860 The National Commission for the Gradual and Progressive Eradication of Child Labor, an organization created by the Government of Honduras, estimated that in 1999, there were 350,000 children working, and that of these children, 161,000 were involved in agricultural activities.861
According to a study undertaken by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security in association with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Honduran Institute for Childhood and the Family (IHNFA), approximately 97,000 children between the ages of 10 and 14, and another 260,000 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18, have left school to work.862 The study found that nearly one-half of all working children are employed in agriculture, cattle farming, or fishing, representing nearly 6.5 percent of the country’s agricultural workforce.863 About 20 percent of children work in the manufacturing, mining, electricity, gas, and construction sectors, constituting close to 3.5 percent of this sector’s labor force. The remaining 30 percent of children work in commerce, transportation, finance, or service industries, accounting for 3.5 percent of the industry’s workforce. Nearly two-thirds of working children work on family farms or for small family businesses and receive no compensation for their labor. Children between the ages of 10 and 14 who receive remuneration for their work earn, on average, between 100 and 500 Honduran Lempiras (US$ 6.75 and US$ 33.78) per month.864
Children in Honduras work as hired hands on small family farms, as street vendors, and in small workshops. They work in food processing factories where they may work with industrial knives and slicing machines.865 Children work on coffee866 and tobacco plantations, and melon farms.867 They manufacture fireworks, and are involved in lime production, mining, and domestic service.868 Children also work on building sites pushing wheelbarrows and operating power saws.869 In the maquila sector over the past few years, there have been few reports of child labor. Children found working were using false work permits to bypass age regulations in the sector.870
Children are involved in prostitution, in many cases as part of sex tourism.871 Government estimates show that nearly 40 percent of street children regularly engage in prostitution.872 Honduran girls from Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and El Progreso have been found working in brothels in nearby Central American countries and in Mexico. Some of these minors have been victims of trafficking.873 Children have also been used to peddle drugs. A recent report indicates that 200 Honduran children between the ages of 10 and 13 were involved in selling cocaine in Canadian cities.874
2. Children’s Participation in School
Primary school attendance rates are unavailable for Honduras. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect a child’s participation in school.875 In 1997, net primary school enrollment was 87.5 percent.876 Only 60 percent of children, however, actually finish the sixth grade, and only about 35 percent reach the ninth grade.877 The government estimates that up to 175,000 children fail to receive schooling of any kind each year because their families lack sufficient financial resources or because parents rely on their children’s labor to meet family needs.878 The Ministry of Labor, moreover, estimates that 97,000 children between the ages of 10 and 14 years of age have left school in order to work.879 Poverty and lack of schools prevent many children in Honduras from receiving an education. Indirect costs, such as matriculation fees, school uniforms, and transportation costs also present barriers to many children.880 The destruction of more than 3,000 schools nationwide in 1998 as a result of Hurricane Mitch affected many children in the country.881 The Minister of Education has acknowledged the need for more teachers and for incentives to encourage teachers to work in rural areas.882
3. Child Labor Law and Enforcement
The Constitution of the Republic of Honduras (1982) prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16, except in cases when their labor is indispensable to the family’s well being and does not interfere with schooling.883 The Ministry of Labor may grant permission along with parental consent to allow minors to work.884 Children under the age of 16 are prohibited from engaging in night work. They cannot work for more than 6 hours per day or a maximum of 30 hours per week.885 The Honduran Children’s Code prohibits a child 14 years of age or younger from working even with parental permission.886 Employers hiring 15-year-old children must certify that they have completed or are in the process of completing their required years of schooling.887 Individuals who allow children to work illegally are subject to prison sentences, ranging from three to five years.888
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security’s Labor Inspections Division is responsible for investigating child labor violations. Currently, the Ministry has less than 30 inspectors nationwide889 and few vehicles for enforcement related travel.890 Labor inspectors are often denied access to businesses and industrial parks when trying to conduct labor inspections.891 The Ministry of Labor reportedly does not effectively enforce child labor laws outside of the maquila industry, and Labor Code violations are frequent in rural areas and in small companies.892
Article 148 of the Minor’s Code criminalizes child prostitution. Children under the age of 18 are protected under this law against sexual exploitation, child prostitution, and child pornography.893
In September 1998, the Honduran Government established the National Commission for the Gradual and Progressive Eradication of Child Labor to coordinate all public activities to combat child labor and reincorporate working minors into educational programs.894 The National Commission includes a number of public and private organizations including government ministries, official family welfare agencies, and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). It is charged with defining public policies through which the government can safeguard the rights of working children. It is also responsible for mobilizing civil society to combat child labor, and securing foreign assistance for government efforts in this area.895
The Government of Honduras ratified ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age for Employment on June 9, 1980, and ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor on October 25, 2001.896
4. Addressing Child Labor and Promoting Schooling
a. Child Labor Initiatives
The National Commission for the Gradual and Progressive Eradication of Child Labor is the entity coordinating efforts of the government and civil society to combat child labor.897 The Commission has six regional offices and consists of 175 people.898 The National Commission is researching the nature and extent of child labor in different sectors, drafting a national plan to combat child labor, adding a child labor module to the national household statistical survey, and supporting informational initiatives such as planning a national publicity campaign against child labor.899
In 1998, the government launched a program to remove children from work at building sites and factories and help them return to school. The program reached nearly 250,000 children employed in these sectors.900
With technical assistance from IPEC and funding from the U.S. Department of Labor, Honduras is targeting children working on melon farms in Choluteca, on coffee plantations in Santa Barbara, and on tobacco plantations in El Paraíso. In September 2000, a two-year ILO- IPEC program was initiated, which seeks to remove 960 children from full-time and hazardous work and prevent 240 children from entering work in the melon sector of the Department of Choluteca. The project aims to provide these children with health and social services and enroll them into schools, as well as assist 500 families with viable alternative income generation activities.901 In November 1999, Honduras joined a regional ILO-IPEC project to remove 21,300 Central American children from full-time and hazardous work in the coffee sector and to provide the children and their 6,000 families with viable alternatives. In Honduras, this project will work to remove and prevent 1,200 children from work in the coffee plantations of Santa Barbara (Trinidad).902 The Honduras National Institute of Statistics (INE) in consultation with the Secretariat of Labour and Social Security (STSS) will be conducting a National Survey on Child Labor with the assistance of ILO-IPEC’s Statistical Information Monitoring Program on Child Labor (SIMPOC) to enumerate the number of working children between the ages of 5 and 17 in the country.903
UNICEF is helping the Government of Honduras to finance six regional centers to combat child labor by providing training for their 175 employees, 40 Labor inspectors, and 40 Ministry of Labor employees. UNICEF is also supporting the national public awareness campaign about child labor by producing an informational pamphlet and poster.904 Save the Children Britain is providing assistance to focus groups in the Mosquitia region on the dangers faced by child divers.905
The San Juan Bosco Center Project supports efforts to eradicate child labor in the informal sector in the city of Tela, particularly targeting girl prostitutes and children working as garbage pickers. In the town of Comayeguela, a project carried out by the Alternatives and
Opportunities Project (PAYO) is combating child labor in the informal sector, while Project Prodim is seeking to help girls involved in prostitution.906
b. Educational Alternatives
The María Auxiliadora Institute and Save the Children Honduras are providing informal education and vocational training to adolescents in domestic service in Tegucigalpa, Comayaguela, and other cities in the country,907 and the World Bank approved a US$41.5 million loan in 2001 to expand access to quality preschool and primary education in rural areas of Honduras.908
In 2000, the Government of Honduras allocated 32 percent of its budget to public education and health care.909 The Education for All Plan in Honduras aims to universalize primary education for six years, provide basic health and nutrition services to the primary school population, reduce the dropout rate, improve the quality of the curriculum, and strengthen the educational administration at departmental, municipal, and local level.910
5. Selected Data on Government Expenditures
The following bar chart presents selected government expenditures expressed as a percentage of gross national product (GNP). The chart considers government expenditures on education, the military, health care, and debt service. Where figures are available, the portion of government spending on education that is specifically dedicated to primary education is also shown.911
While it is difficult to draw conclusions or discern clear correlations between areas of government expenditure as a percentage of GNP and the incidence of child labor in a country, this chart and the related tables presented in Appendix B (Tables 14 through 19) offer the reader a basis for considering the relative emphasis placed on each spending area by the governments in each of the 33 countries profiled in the report.
859 International Labor Organization, Yearbook of Labour Statistics (ILO: Geneva, 1999).
860 “Honduras Vows to Combat Child Labor,” CNN/World/Americas, April 24, 1998 [hereinafter “Honduras Vows to Combat Child Labor”]; see also IPEC project document, Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor in the Melon Plantations in Honduras (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, October 2000), 2 [hereinafter Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor ].
861 Diagnostic and National Plan to Gradually and Progressively Eliminate Child Labor , Honduras, 2000, 3, 8 [hereinafter Diagnostic and National Plan ].
862 U.S. Embassy-Honduras, unclassified telegram no. 002159, June 19, 2000 (hereinafter unclassified telegram 002159].
865 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2000), Section 6d (www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/honduras.html) [hereinafter Country Reports 1999—Honduras ].
866 IPEC Progress Report, Combating Child Labor in the Coffee Industry of Central America and the Dominican Republic (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, October 2000), 17 [hereinafter Combating Child Labor in the Coffee Industry ].
867 Diagnostic and National Plan at 5.
869 Country Reports 1999—Honduras at Section 6d; see www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/ 1999_hrp_report/honduras.html.
870 Minimum age requirements have been raised in the maquila industry, with some plants now hiring only those above 18 years of age. This practice has reduced the number of legal job opportunities available to minors. Country Reports 1999—Honduras at Section 6d.
871 According to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Casa Alianza, Central America, including Honduras, has become a new destination for sex tourism, “Swiss Sex Tourist Arrested in Honduras,” August 28, 1998, as cited in The Global March Against Child Labor (www.globalmarch.org/cl-around-the-word/swiss-sex-tourist-arrested- in-honduras.html).
872 Approximately 50 percent (4,000) of street children do not have shelter on any given day. See Country Reports 1999—Honduras.
873 “More Honduran Girls Prostituted,” Reuters, February 28, 1998, as cited in Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation: Honduras (www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/catw/honduras.htm).
874 “Honduras Children Trafficked to Canada to Sell Drugs,” Reuters Limited, September 24, 1998, as cited in The Global March Against Child Labor (www.globalmarch.org/cl-around-the-word/honduras-children-tragfficked-to- canada.html).
875 For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between education statistics and work, See Chapter 1, Introduction.
876 World Development Indicators 2000 .
877 Electronic correspondence from Susan Fleck, U.S. Embassy Honduras, to U.S. Department of Labor official, February 15, 2001. The Government of Honduras has recently redefined basic education as compulsory through the ninth grade, raising the age to 16, as well as adding an obligatory pre-basic year; however, the law has not yet been changed or put into practice. Electronic correspondence from Diane Leach and Marco Tulio, USAID/U.S. Embassy-Honduras, to U.S. Department of Labor official, April 6, 2001.
878 Country Reports 1999—Honduras at Section 5 (www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/ honduras.html); see also Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor at 2.
879 Unclassified telegram 002159.
880 Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor at 2.
881 Background Notes: Honduras (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 1999) (www.state.gov/www/ background_notes/).
882 Meeting/interview with ILO-IPEC and Honduran Minister of Education, by U.S. Department of Labor official, August 30, 2000.
883 Constitución de la República de Honduras, 1982, Chapter V, Article 128, Section 7 [hereinafter Constitución, Article 128]. Relevant Honduran laws protecting the rights of children are found in Chapter IV, Articles 119 through 126, of the Constitution; Articles 127 through 148 of the Labor Code; and in the entirety of the Code on Childhood and Adolescence, which defines the rights, liberties, and protection of minors, particularly as they relate to child labor. See Constitución de la República de Honduras, 1982, Chapter IV, Articles 119-26, and Country Reports 1999—Honduras at Section 5 (www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/honduras.html).
884 Constitución, Article 128. The Ministry of Labor annually grants a limited number of work permits to 15-year- old children. Country Reports 1999—Honduras at Section 6d (www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/ 1999_hrp_report/honduras.html).
885 Constitución, Article 128.
886 Country Reports 1999—Honduras .
888 Ibid at Section 6d.
889 Actuación de la Secretaría de Trabajo y Seguridad Social en La Prevencion y Solución de los Conflictos Laborales, Anexo 3: Tema: Labor Inspectiva (Tegucigalpa, Honduras, July 1999).
890 Interview with Mr. José Navarro, Office of the Inspector General, by U.S. Department of Labor official, September 1, 2000.
892 Country Reports 1999—Honduras at Section 6d.
893 U.S. Embassy-Honduras, unclassified telegram no. 002902, August 24, 2000.
894 Country Reports 1999—Honduras .
895 Unclassified telegram 002159.
896 For a list of which countries profiled in Chapter 3 have ratified ILO Conventions No. 138 and No. 182, see Appendix C.
897 Informe, Trabajo Infantil en Honduras, Secretaría de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, June 2000. The Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECI) will assist the National Commission in collecting information on child labor in high-risk areas and on threats to the physical, mental, or intellectual well-being of children. AECI will also fund a national publicity campaign against child labor, including a children’s theater. Unclassified telegram 002159.
898 Unclassified telegram 002159.
900 “Honduras Vows to Combat Child Labor.”
901 Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor at 7.
902 Combating Child Labor in the Coffee Industry at 17.
903 IPEC project status report, Reporting on the State of the Nation’s Working Children: A Statistical Program for Advocacy on the Elimination of Child Labour and the Protection of Working Children in Central America (Geneva: ILO-IPEC, October 2000).
904 Unclassified telegram 002159.
908 World Bank, Honduras: World Bank Approves US$41.5 Million Credit to Improve Preschool and Primary Education at http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/external/lac/lac.nsf/c2e12c369e771d17852567d6006b402b/ dd6630466c08d2fe852567de0059188d?OpenDocument
909 Country Reports 1999—Honduras at Section 5.
910 Unesco,12/07/01, Honduras:Evaluación del Plan Nacional de Acción de Educación Para Todos at http:// www2.unesco.org/wef/countryreports/honduras/contents.html
911 See Chapter 1, Section C, 5, for a fuller discussion of the information presented in the box. See also Appendix B for further discussion, and Tables 14 through 19 for figures on government expenditure over a range of years.